At this moment, an enemy country has the ability to meddle in the United States’ domestic elections. That country is our arch foe, the People’s Republic of China, and its ruling Communist Party has the ability to do so via popular social media platform TikTok.
TikTok has the facade of an innocent platform, filled with kids dancing, and lip-syncing. But TikTok has an enormous user base, with 1.5 billion downloads and 800 million active users. Those who control the levers of what can, and cannot be seen on its platform, have immense sway.
TikTok is dominating Apple’s hugely popular iOS App Store, with 33 million downloads in the first quarter of 2019. It is the single most downloaded app of that quarter. Globally, 41 percent of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24. ln 2019, 123.8 million people downloaded TikTok in the U.S. So tens of millions of young Americans spend countless hours there, developing their perspectives and their beliefs as they observe what they see.
But it’s time for a hard reality check: TikTok is a national security risk, and it must be treated as such.
In 2017 the Chinese Communist Party enacted a law stating that all Chinese companies must hand over user information and user data if requested by the Chinese government. That ought to strike us as harrowing. The threat of the Chinese Communist Party possessing millions of Americans’ data should be genuinely alarming—between their “locations, ages, private messages, phone numbers, contacts, genders, browsing histories, cell phone serial numbers, and IP addresses,” China has access to everything right at its totalitarian fingertips.
So right now, China has influence over our youngest and our most susceptible. These fears might be ameliorated if TikTok had a history of ethical corporate behavior. But, between the Hong Kong protests and the oppression of China’s Uighur Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang province, it’s clear that TikTok censors information at the behest of its Communist Party overlords. This sets the stage for tremendous potential for information distortion in our political and electoral processes. The United States must not allow the Chinese Communist Party to have that potential influence.
TikTok is a national security risk, as evidenced by the fact the U.S. Navy has already acted to halt military personnel from using it. There has been bipartisan opposition to TikTok in the Senate, too, with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) requesting a “rigorous assessment” of the potential national security risks posed by TikTok.
As reported in VOX, “The federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), launched an investigation into TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.” Conveniently, the gay dating platform Grindr provides policymakers and intelligence officials alike with a clear precedent. “The gay hookup app Grindr was sold to a Chinese company called Kunlun in 2016, and in March 2019 CFIUS determined that its ownership of the US company caused a national security risk,” VOX noted. That same conclusion ought to apply to TikTok.
We can expect any CFIUS investigation of TikTok to return with findings similar to those of the Grindr/Kunlun example. If TikTok doesn’t want to follow the preferred path of Grindr, which is being sold back to an American company, that’s fine. The United States should move to ban TikTok nationally. We wouldn’t let Iran, or any other enemy regime, meddle in our domestic elections. That of course also applies to the Chinese Communist Party.
It is without any doubt that China has control over TikTok, has total access to all TikTok users’ data, and has been censoring information on the TikTok platform. If there’s one thing that’s been certain from the Wuhan virus global crisis, China is a horrible, deceptive, manipulative, and utterly tyrannical regime. America should be taking every step possible to minimize China’s impact and influence upon Americans citizens and our free elections.